On Saturday, October the 8th 2011, the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, Trafalgar Square will turn into the meeting point for an "Anti-War Mass Assembly." The event will start at noon, and will be opened by Joe Glenton, an ex-soldier who was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, and Grace McCann, who in 2009 attempted a citizen's arrest on Tony Blair. Speeches and live performances will follow. A "Naming the Dead Ceremony" will be led by Joan Humphries, who lost her grandson in Afghanistan, and Rose Gentle, who lost her son in Iraq.
In September 2010, Verso published an anthology of writings on The Case fror Withdrawal from Afghanistan, edited by Nick Turse, and including contributions by Tariq Ali and Tom Engelhardt. The book is a must read for all those who oppose the deadly conflict that Barack Obama calls "just war."
Visit the Antiwar assembly website for more info on the demonstration, and to sign the "I will be there" pledge.
The latest issue of the London Review of Books features an edited version of an essay by Tariq Ali that finds a warning for the current occupiers in two new books on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Afgansty is by Rodric Braithwaite, a contributor to Verso's The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan. A Long Goodbye is by Artemy Kalinovsky.
Rodric Braithwaite, British ambassador to Moscow between 1988 and 1992, was in Russia when Soviet troops crossed the Oxus into Afghanistan in 1979. His fascinating account of the Soviet intervention is based almost entirely on Russian sources: interviews with participants, information from veterans' websites and from archives, although those of the GRU and the KGB remain mostly sealed. Each page reads like a warning to Afghanistan's current occupiers. Braithwaite wrote two devastating articles in the Financial Times opposing the Iraq War and the atmosphere of fear created by New Labour propaganda but Afgantsy is written in a very different register. The Soviet intervention is seen as a tragedy for both the Russians and the Afghans.
In a new piece for TomDispatch, Nick Turse, author of The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, reports on the Pentagon's relationship with a number of autocratic states in the Arab world.
Turse's analysis of Defense Department documents indicates that, since the 1990s, the United States has transferred large quantities of military material, ranging from trucks and aircraft to machine-gun parts and millions of rounds of live ammunition, to Bahrain's security forces. Turse urges us to "look closely and outlines emerge of the ways in which the Pentagon and those oil-rich [Arab] nations have pressured the White House to help subvert the popular democratic will sweeping across the greater Middle East":
According to data from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the government that coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment to allies, the U.S. has sent Bahrain dozens of "excess" American tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopter gunships. The U.S. has also given the Bahrain Defense Force thousands of .38 caliber pistols and millions of rounds of ammunition, from large-caliber cannon shells to bullets for handguns. To take one example, the U.S. supplied Bahrain with enough .50 caliber rounds—used in sniper rifles and machine guns—to kill every Bahraini in the kingdom four times over. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency did not respond to repeated requests for information and clarification.
In addition to all these gifts of weaponry, ammunition, and fighting vehicles, the Pentagon in coordination with the State Department oversaw Bahrain's purchase of more than $386 million in defense items and services from 2007 to 2009, the last three years on record. These deals included the purchase of a wide range of items from vehicles to weapons systems. Just this past summer, to cite one example, the Pentagon announced a multimillion-dollar contract with Sikorsky Aircraft to customize nine Black Hawk helicopters for Bahrain's Defense Force.
Visit TomDispatch to read the article in full.
The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan contributor Malalai Joya and Noam Chomsky will be speaking on the case for withdrawal on March 25 in Cambridge, MA. Visit BostonSocialism for more information.
In a world of statistics and precision, in which "accountability" is now a Washington buzzword, there's one number no American—not even the president or the Pentagon—knows: the number of U.S. military bases currently dotting the globe. In a new piece for Tomdispatch.com, Nick Turse, author of The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, weighs in:
Last January, Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told me that there were nearly 400 U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan, including camps, forward operating bases, and combat outposts. He expected that number to increase by 12 or more, he added, over the course of 2010.
In September, I contacted ISAF's Joint Command Public Affairs Office to follow up. To my surprise, I was told that "there are approximately 350 forward operating bases with two major military installations, Bagram and Kandahar airfields." Perplexed by the loss of 50 bases instead of a gain of 12, I contacted Gary Younger, a Public Affairs Officer with the International Security Assistance Force. "There are less than 10 NATO bases in Afghanistan," he wrote in an October 2010 email. "There are over 250 U.S. bases in Afghanistan."
This week for Tomdispatch Nick Turse, author of The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan, reveals a disturbing trend in Iraq that counters Obama's August 31st announcement of the "end of our combat mission in Iraq," showing it as another potential "mission accomplished" moment:
The construction projects are sprouting like mushrooms: walled complexes, high-strength weapons vaults, and underground bunkers with command and control capacities—and they're being planned and funded by a military force intent on embedding itself ever more deeply in the Middle East.